Young at heart

By By Kyle Nelson

By Kyle Nelson

Before she even received her driver’s license, Heather Thackeray was a paid dancer for Ballet West.

“I signed a contract when I was 15 years old,” said Thackeray, a junior at the U. “It was pretty cool to be in high school and have my dream job.”

Fifteen years later, Thackeray is still living her dream of being a ballet dancer. This upcoming season will be her 16th year with Ballet West.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Thackeray said. “Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like a job.”

Thackeray works between 30 and 35 weeks each year dancing for Ballet West. Over the years, she has performed in such productions as Alice in Wonderland, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

To make extra income, she works as a guest teacher for LaRae’s Dance Unlimited. She plans on teaching after she retires from the stage, which is why her ballet major has an emphasis in teaching rather than performance.

Peter Christie, the academy director for Ballet West, made the same transition from dancing to teaching nearly 10 years ago and believes Thackeray is going about it the right way.

“She’s doing it very intelligently,” Christie said. “She’s getting the building blocks in place so when she retires, she will already have experience.”

Thackeray teaches fifth graders in numerous schools throughout the Salt Lake valley. She hasn’t retired from the stage, though. Even at age 30, she still feels like a kid, she said.

“I get to dress up in costumes, wear make-up, crowns, tiaras, wigs. It feels like my childhood is just continuing,” Thackeray said.

Christie has known Thackeray since she was 9 years old and agrees wholeheartedly.

“As a rule, dancers seem to stay young for a really long time. Heather still has a wonder about life. She still gets excited about little things,” he said.

Her enthusiasm should translate well into teaching when she becomes a full-time dance teacher, something Christie has seen firsthand.

“There she is, working with a 10-year-old, trying to teach them a step. And when they get it, she gets just as excited as they do,” he said.

“She won’t ever lose that. She’ll be 60 and still be the same way.”

Thackeray hopes he’s right.

“I don’t think I’ll ever stop dancing,” she said. “Even if I’m retired and in a wheelchair, I’ll be moving.”